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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

"Perhaps the best book ever on how Democrats lost the white working class." (James Carville)

In May 1970, four days after Kent State, construction workers chased students through downtown Manhattan, beating scores of protesters bloody. As hardhats clashed with hippies, it soon became clear that something larger was underway - Democrats were at war with themselves. In The Hardhat Riot, David Paul Kuhn tells the fateful story of when the white working class first turned against liberalism, when Richard Nixon seized the breach, and America was forever changed. It was unthinkable one generation before: FDR's "forgotten man" siding with the party of Big Business and, ultimately, paving the way for presidencies from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump.

This is the story of the schism that tore liberalism apart. In the shadow of the half-built Twin Towers, on the same day the Knicks rallied against the odds and won their first championship, we experience the tumult of Nixon's America and John Lindsay's New York City, as festering division explodes into violence and Nixon's advisors realize that the Democratic coalition has collapsed, that this is their chance, because "these, quite candidly, are our people now."

In this riveting story - rooted in meticulous research, including thousands of pages of never-before-seen records - we go back to a harrowing day that explains the politics of today. We experience an emerging class conflict between two newly polarized Americas, and how it all boiled over on one brutal day, when the Democratic Party's future was bludgeoned by its past.

©2020 David Paul Kuhn (P)2020 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Riveting." (Jill Lepore, The New Yorker)

"Perhaps the best book ever on how Democrats lost the white working class. The Hardhat Riot is a great read, but also a must-read to understand the voters that Democrats neglected at their own peril." (James Carville, former Chief Strategist for President Bill Clinton)   

"Engrossing, well-crafted, The Hardhat Riot...argues persuasively that the riot sparked a vast national political shift driven by a widening divide between the working class and the educated elite that has led to the era of the Trump presidency.... Kuhn writes with empathy for both sides.... Kuhn's accounts of the violence are vivid and raw.... The author concludes with a sharp analysis of how the revolt of the White working class almost immediately reshaped American politics, beginning with Nixon's opportunistic claim of blue-collar Whites as "Silent Majority" supporters of his law-and-order presidency. Kuhn shows the reverberations over the decades, right up to the making of Donald Trump's political base.... Kuhn argues that class divisions have driven people so far apart that it's as if Americans now live in 'entirely different places, even if they are still called by one name - America.'" (The Washington Post Book Review)

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